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    Living With It: Life After Cancer Treatment                     originally published on Yahoo Health

    How to Deal With Anxiety About Cancer Recurrence Risk

    Once a person receives a cancer diagnosis, that diagnosis remains for life. Here’s how to keep anxiety about recurrence at bay, and enjoy life.

    “This is very possibly a cancer.” When I heard this from the radiologist, the pit in my stomach threatened to swallow me whole. My first thought was that I was going to die.

    There are over 13.7 million cancer survivors living in the United States currently. Some are fighting, some are in remission, which means that their cancer is inactive. Once a person receives this diagnosis, they are statistically considered living with cancer. The way we know if we have been cured is when we die of something else.

    Once I received my diagnosis of Stage IIIC Inflammatory Breast Cancer, it was mine for life. My initial treatment was successful and after it was completed, there was no evidence of disease in my body. What has changed is that I visit my oncologist annually, I visit a breast specialist annually, and my GP is vigilant about cancer screenings. I will always have an oncologist. I am at increased risk for having detectable cancer in my body again, and for dying of cancer.

    Treatment changed me. There are aftereffects, which I accept gladly for the privilege of seeing my children grow up.

    The period after treatment is the hardest for many of us. While we are in treatment, we know that weapons are being used against our disease, weapons that may be visibly working. When treatment is over, it can be almost disorienting. Fear of recurrence can cause debilitating anxiety. Every little ache and pain can send you into a tailspin of “what if”.

    Most days, I am at peace with my diagnosis and my risk. If you have just completed treatment or are still anxious, I offer these suggestions to help you move forward into your post cancer life peacefully and happily.

    Act as if you have control, while understanding that you don’t.

    I am indebted to my mentor, Jean Shinoda Bolen, for this one. I make the choice to exercise, eat vegetables, take supplements, and try to get enough sleep. I also understand that ultimately, I could do everything “right” and the cancer could come back. Even if I don’t do everything right, a recurrence would not be anything to blame myself for.

    Stay educated.

    I am always paying attention to new developments in cancer treatment. This helps me feel confident that if cancer does come back, I will have choices and I will know what they are.

    Stay on top of your health screenings.

    What I don’t know can hurt me! If I know I am paying attention, I am less likely to get broadsided. Knowledge is power.

    Follow up on anything questionable immediately.

    My work is physical, so aches and pains happen. I could worry myself to death about them, or I can acknowledge that I have a persistent pain in one spot, figure out what it might be, and make it go away by process elimination. The best method is to figure out what muscle it could be and stretch it out or get a massage. If it doesn’t go away, I follow up.

    What doesn’t work is to become immobilized and worry about it.

    Live for your own happiness.

    What cancer survivors know that others forget is that we all will die. Happiness is not something to postpone. When I faced cancer in 2007, I had put many things aside that made me happy, things I planned to get back to “later”. Later is a myth. Doing musical theater with my daughter and singing regularly with my quartet ranks with vegetables and exercise. I’m convinced that joy is the most potent medicine there is.
    Additional Resource: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/life-after-treatment/

     

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